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When an individual passes away in California or any other state, his or her estate may be subject to probate. This can happen if a person dies with or without a valid will. If a person does have a valid will, assets will be distributed according to its instructions. Regardless of how a person dies, a personal representative will be appointed, and a person may choose his or her representative in a will.

Probate generally takes about two years to complete, and it may take longer to conclude if there are legal challenges or other issues to resolve. Preparing and filing a petition for probate generally takes anywhere from one to four months while a notice to creditors takes about three to six months. It can take up to 12 months to calculate the value of an estate, pay taxes and either accept or deny creditor claims against it. The same is true of sending notices to the Department of Health Services if necessary.

Distributing assets to beneficiaries and distributing any funds left over after paying bills and taxes can take between 9 and 24 months. There are costs associated with probate such as paying lawyers and covering administrative fees. These costs may encourage some to create their estate plan in a manner that fully or partially avoids the need to go through probate.

Assuming that there are no legal challenges, probate may be an easy process to get through. Individuals may be able to reduce the odds of legal wrangling by creating a clear will that is completed in accordance with state law. Working with an attorney may make it easier for an executor to avoid making mistakes that could prolong probate. An Orange County Probate Attorney may also help if there is a challenge to a will.